Believing 6 Impossibilities before Breakfast


Tenniel illustration for Alice in Wonderland

Slate Magazine recently had a Jacob Weisberg column that invoked Alice through the Looking Glass in talking about the current Republican Party.  Noting that college-educated men like Chris Christie and Tim Pawlenty can’t admit to believing in evolution or climate change or the fact that tax raises will be needed to balance the budget, Weisberg notes,

Like the White Queen in her youth, the contemporary Republican politician must be capable of believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice books seem indeed to be works for our times.  Last November I noted that the Tea Party movement seems to owe less to the Boston Tea Party than to Carroll’s Mad Tea Party, especially in the way that the Mad Hatter thinks that reality can be manipulated:

For instance, suppose it were nine o’clock in the morning. Just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!

I speculated in that post that people feeling boxed into a corner often resort to fantasy.  As I wrote,

Carroll’s own fantasy was a reaction against a complicated world that was putting severe pressures upon his citizens. In response, he retreated to a childhood wonderland and imagined his heroine rebelling (but always with apparent innocence) against bossy adults, rigid rule systems, boring social obligations, insipid moralistic lessons, and the like.

Of course, the difference is that Carroll admitted he was writing a fantasy.

Is there a Republican politician who will stand up to the ideologues of his party and start acknowledging some hard truths?  And then, when Rush Limbaugh and Fox pundits start shouting “off with his head” at any deviance from their litmus tests, can he or she say, as Alice says, “Who cares for you.  You’re nothing but a pack of cards?”

The cards’ response is at first frightening.  I remembering being terrified as a child when they all rose up and flew at Alice.  But ultimately she discovers that they are no more than a few leaves falling upon her while she slept.

She awakens to her sister caressing her and telling her what a long sleep she’s had.  When do we get to wake up and start dealing with reality?


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  1. Posted May 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Republicans are a scurvy lot. (To use a pirate phrase.) I like the comparison to Alice in Wonderland, if only the Republicans were as harmless. If only their existence were a dream I could wake up from. Ha!

    You would be surprised (or maybe not), Robin, how otherwise rational adults get taken in by the absurdities they hear from Republicans and their Tea Party minions. Just when you think, well, NO ONE would believe this -or- this is too outrageous – or – this makes NO sense – there’s always someone willing to believe the most incredible absurdities.

    Look at the ‘birther’ outcry.

    Well, we all know that that is really about the color of Obama’s skin, but honestly, it’s enough to make you want to run screaming through the streets. This is 2011, but some people are still living in the early part of the 20th century.

  2. Robin Bates
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    What I find discouraging, Yvette, is that exploding Medicare and Medicaid costs will need to be addressed–probably through a combination of what the Republicans demonized as “death panels,” through tax raises, through “best practices” (also attacked by Republicans), through doctors making less than they have become accustomed to (Democrats don’t want to talk about that one any more than Republicans do), through insurance companies and pharmacies also making less, and . . . I actually think that Obama was prepared to make tough trade-offs with Obamacare and was never given the chance amidst all the demonization (for whatever reasons that occurred). We are all of us losers. (Well, except for those politicians and pundits who cashed in immediately–Republicans and Fox cashed in in 2010 and now Democrats are starting to cash in, if the recent New York election is any indication.)

  3. Posted May 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    For lack of a better label, I am a Republican.

    Yvette, I don’t have scurvy. And republicans in America are no more nor less dangerous than any other political label. Dangerousness is a function of both intention AND capability. To that end, as the republicans are in control of 1/2 of the tripartite government, they have quite a bit less capability that the democrats that control 1 and 1/2 of the tripartite government.

    Also, I find the ad hominems counter productive. Based on your first few sentences, I couldn’t be bothered to read the rest of your post, and couldn’t care less what you think. At this point, your actions will lead to an alienation that will breed bitterness and disunity. Maybe your better than me and will read the rest, if not, see?

    As far was believing 6 impossible things before breakfast, mind your step, the pitfalls for party in charge are just as large. For example, ‘We can pay with everything if we just let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire’ (ignore, for the moment the reason the who, when and why they haven’t expired). They are scheduled to expire in 2012, and so are already included included in the budget forecasts. How are those post 2012 budgets looking?

    See also ‘The Doc fix will not be extended, thus mking PPACA deficit nuetral’, ‘Banning oil production at home, punishing coal producers in WV, subsidizing ethanol production are rational actions to take during a recession / depression’, ‘The bailout of the UAW was a wise and constitutional use of limited federal funds and not transparent political payback to union (see also NLRB interference in Boeing factory being built in SC)’, ‘You can be a successful pro-life democrat’. [Honestly, which do y’all think is harder: pro-life D or anti-creation R? I’d say they are equally scarce, though the D at least have a fair number of quite religious elements from Keith Ellison to Nancy Pelosi. ] Et cetera.

    Dr. Bates, et al, don’t presume that believing the fantastic is limited to one side of the debate (a fantastic idea in and of itself).

  4. Robin Bates
    Posted May 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I have a Republican cousin, Kristian, who says that he likes my blog except when I “bash Republicans.” Much as I try to be balanced, he catches me when I show my biases, for which I value him. So please continue to speak up. I see Yvette, by the way, as teasing as she channels her inner Johnny Depp–although that being said, you can see why a Latina woman would be feeling bruised by the rightwing of the Republican Party at the moment. As George W. Bush and Karl Rove both recognized, the Republicans don’t have much of a future if they continue to alienate Hispanic voters, and those voters are definitely feeling alienated at the moment. Obama can’t even propose a fairly moderate Dream Act (filled with many one-time Republican ideas) without being slammed.

    I agree with you that anyone who thinks that we can balance the budget by just letting the Bush tax cuts expire deserves to join the White Queen’s company. (Do you admit, however, that those tax cuts have contributed significantly to the deficit?) You’re right, the Right doesn’t have a monopoly on political fantasy. I’m against ideologues of all stripes and against demagogues of both parties, from Sarah Palin screaming “death panels” to Democrats showing Paul Ryan pushing grandma off a cliff. I think the choices before us are extremely hard, and unless Democrats and Republicans figure out how to work together, Medicare will indeed go bankrupt (in 2024 by the latest calculation). Right now the smell of blood seems to be overwhelming our critical and compromising faculties. I like to think that literature can serve as a referee, but that means that my interpretations too need to be called out when they get too partisan.

  5. Posted May 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Bates,
    No worries or offense taken. One of my favorite contemporary authors is John Scalzi (‘Old Man’s War’), who is a particaularly partisan liberal democrat, quite a bit more than you, comparing blogs.

    To be honest, I am quite disheartened that it is so easy for many people to dismiss me as a mystical rube becuase I find the idea of a creator less fantastic than EVERYTHING happening by chance. Add into the almost jingoistic cheerleading for MY side (the side of good) vs. jeering your side (the side of that is evil in the world), and politcal commentary has devolved from the Federalist and Anit-Federalist papers to the equivalent of Red Sox and Yankees fans taunting each other.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By The Presidential Candidates in Wonderland on December 8, 2011 at 7:16 am

    […] Believing Six Impossibilities before Breakfast […]

  2. By Mitt Romney and Looking Glass Politics on June 14, 2012 at 10:54 am

    […] Believing 6 Impossibilities before Breakfast […]

  3. By Medicare Politics and Trusting Oysters on August 23, 2012 at 1:02 am

    […] Believing 6 Impossibilities before Breakfast […]


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